Cell-level somatic mutation detection from single-cell RNA sequencing

Trung Nghia Vu, Ha Nam Nguyen, Stefano Calza, Krishna R. Kalari, Liewei Wang, Yudi Pawitan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Both single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) and DNA sequencing (scDNA-seq) have been applied for cell-level genomic profiling. For mutation profiling, the latter seems more natural. However, the task is highly challenging due to the limited input materials from only two copies of DNA molecules, while whole-genome amplification generates biases and other technical noises. ScRNA-seq starts with a higher input amount, so generally has better data quality. There exists various methods for mutation detection from DNA sequencing, it is not clear whether these methods work for scRNA-seq data. Results: Mutation detection methods developed for either bulk-cell sequencing data or scDNA-seq data do not work well for the scRNA-seq data, as they produce substantial numbers of false positives. We develop a novel and robust statistical method - called SCmut - to identify specific cells that harbor mutations discovered in bulk-cell data. Statistically SCmut controls the false positives using the 2D local false discovery rate method. We apply SCmut to several scRNA-seq datasets. In scRNA-seq breast cancer datasets SCmut identifies a number of highly confident cell-level mutations that are recurrent in many cells and consistent in different samples. In a scRNA-seq glioblastoma dataset, we discover a recurrent cell-level mutation in the PDGFRA gene that is highly correlated with a well-known in-frame deletion in the gene. To conclude, this study contributes a novel method to discover cell-level mutation information from scRNA-seq that can facilitate investigation of cell-to-cell heterogeneity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4679-4687
Number of pages9
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics


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